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Remarks by Ambassador Biesebroek at the Workshop and B2B Session: Leveraging the EPA
7 July, 2017
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
I am very pleased to be here at the Trade and Investment Convention and to formally welcome you to the: 'Leveraging the EPA seminar and B2B' event organized jointly by the EU (Delegations to Barbados and TT), the CARIFORUM Directorate and the Caribbean Export Development Agency. I strongly believe this event will allow us to better share information and experiences on the opportunities available for the private sector, arising from application of the CARIFORUM – EU EPA.
As you are certainly aware, one of the EPA's main objectives is to promote economic growth of the region and to gradually integrate the Caribbean states into the world economy. It aims to increase chances for the Caribbean businesses to participate in global value chains and supports the conditions for increasing investment and private sector initiatives, enhancing supply capacity and competitiveness in the CARIFORUM States.
Achievement of these objectives cannot take place without involvement of the economic operators who are supposed to be among the main beneficiaries, but who also can be considered ''the owners'' of the Agreement in the delivery of the EPA undertakings.
The European Union's commitment to support the private sector and entrepreneurship in the Caribbean is not new. We have been supporting the diversification of the economy and the private sector in the Caribbean for many years as our main commitment under the EPA. Only a few months ago, in March, we launched together with the Caribbean Export Development Agency the 11th European Development Fund Regional Private Sector Development Programme. This programme seeks to support private sector development, investment facilitation and EPA trade-related activities. The 24 million euro available under this programme are intended to strengthen in particular micro, small and medium enterprises and support trade, investments and export development throughout the region.
In order to deliver effectively on these objectives we need to take into account and address the real needs of the private sector. We need to focus on building the capacity at the level of individual enterprise through value chain actors, strengthening business support organization to assist firms to meet trade-related requirements (quality, customs etc.) and reinforcing public-private and private-private dialogue to promote a more effective business enabling environment for Caribbean companies.
No doubt, governments create policies and conditions for businesses to prosper. However in the end it is the private companies, not the governments that create jobs and growth. Therefore we should not miss any opportunities to reinforce the role of the private sector; building on key value chains in order to strengthen the competitiveness and trade capacities of targeted productive industries and enterprises and, most importantly, to create more business links with Europe.
This task cannot be based on one-time or sporadic efforts. Earlier this year I had the privilege, together with the Minister of Trade and Industry, Senator the Honourable Paula Gopee Scoon, to deliver opening remarks during a similar event which also took place also here in Port of Spain on maximizing export potential to the EU through EPA, and I am most happy to see that the idea of promoting EPA's utilization among private sector operators is gaining both in momentum and in the regional dimension. The EU is committed to organizing similar events and B2B sessions that allow for the increase of ''exportability'' of Caribbean companies but also for intra and extra-regional business matchmaking, regularly and throughout the region. To this very end, we will work hand-in-hand with the relevant CARIFORUM National and Regional Authorities, regional and European Businesses and Business Support Organizations, CEDA, national chambers, associations and agencies.
The Delegations, including the EU Delegation to Barbados which is entrusted with regional responsibility for EPA implementation, as well our colleagues at HQ (Brussels), are available to assist to ensure that your respective private sectors reap the benefits of the EPA implementation.
I wish you all an extremely fruitful workshop and B2B session and I am sure that this very event, together with the events of this kind to come will allow you to increase your business dealings with Europe and contribute to further integration of the Caribbean industries and economies into global value chains.
Thank you for your kind attention.